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Why Max Scherzer pitching Game 3 could be a good thing

Why Max Scherzer pitching Game 3 could be a good thing

With Game 1 of the NLDS starting Friday night against the Cubs, one of the biggest concerns for Nationals fans is ace Max Scherzer not pitching Game 1 or Game 2 due to a hamstring injury.

The team announced Thursday that Stephen Strasburg would be pitching Game 1 and potentially Gio Gonzalez Game 2 with the plan to have Max Scherzer in for Game 3.

The Nats are about to take on the reigning World Series champs and considering they have yet to experience playoff baseball success, many fans are worried about Scherzer not taking the mound until Game 3. For Nats reporter Dan Kolko, that could be a good thing.

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"This is not something that Max Scherzer is used to or enjoys very much," Kolko told the Sports Junkies Friday.

"He likes going out there and being able to throw his 110 pitches every single start. This has frustrated him but it is what it is. The Nationals are trying to manage it the best they can."

"I don't think that having Max go Game 3 in Chicago is the worst thing in the world. It kinda leaves an ace in the hole, literally and figuratively, in the Cubs' minds that they're going to have to deal with one of the best pitchers in the world Game 3 of this series."

Depending on the outcome of Game 1 and 2, having one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball on the mound for you Game 3 could potentially change the momentum of the series. 

Dealing with health issues for the Cy Young Award winner has been a new experience for him in the 2017 season. 

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"This hamstring thing is something that, at least publicly, he said has just kind of popped up on him. He did acknowledge what you kind just said, which is that there have been a few, small things now that he's had to deal with over the last few months and he acknowledged as well that he's frustrated by that. He's not used to his body not allowing him to make 32, 33 starts a year."

So, what's the plan to get Scherzer ready for Monday's game in Chicago?

"Dusty Baker saying that they could have him throw a bullpen session two days ago and really they could have had him throw a bullpen session yesterday to try and make his way onto the mound for one of the first two games of this series, but they haven't done that."

"They're taking an abundance of caution here with the thought process that they want a healthy Max Scherzer. They don't want this being something that pops up again when he's on the mound in the division series."

"It certainly looks like Gio Gonzalez Game 2 and Max Scherzer Game 3, which will be Monday in Chicago. So, that will give Max a couple extra days to let that hamstring heal. We'll see whether he throws a bullpen session tomorrow, on Saturday, and assuming he does, then that would slot him likely to throw Monday against the Cubs."

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Is Juan Soto a lock for National League Rookie of the Year?

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Is Juan Soto a lock for National League Rookie of the Year?

In April, it would have been unfathomable. In May, it would have been laughable. In June, it would have been improbable. In July, it started to look possible. In August, it might even have been likely. Now, it’s a complete toss-up.

Juan Soto is the worthiest National League Rookie of the Year. So is Ronald Acuna.

It’s one of the most exciting rookie races in recent memory, not simply for the otherworldly numbers each freshman sensation is putting up, but for just how good they are at such young ages. Juan Soto is a jaw-dropping 19. Acuna, by comparison, is the wizened veteran at the old age of.. 20. 

The two are preternaturally talented, and their mature-beyond-their-years games have translated perfectly well to the big leagues. The question now is: which one will actually take home the hardware?

(Before we continue, I’ll note that Jack Flaherty, Brian Anderson, and Walker Buehler are all very talented young players who would at least be in the conversation in normal years).

The first step is to look at the numbers.

On the season Acuna is slashing .287/.347/.571, and his wRC+ is 144. He’s got 19 home runs and 8 stolen bases in just 68 games and his fWAR is 2.3. bWAR has him at 2.8

Soto’s slash line is currently .293/.420/.534, to go along with 15 home runs. His wRC+ is 153, and his fWAR is 2.7. His bWAR sits at 2.2.

Obviously, the numbers are terrific for both. Acuna has been up longer, but thanks to injury Soto has actually played 8 more games. Acuna has the edge in power, both in home runs and slugging percentage, plus he’s clearly the speedier player and better defender. If you’re looking for all-around game, he’s probably your man. Plus, for those who care about such things when voting on awards, the Braves are several games ahead of the Nats in the standings.

However, Soto’s performance has a couple things going for it. First of all, as impressive as it is that Acuna is taking the league by storm as a 20-year old, Soto is nearly a full year younger. It cannot be overemphasized how wild it is what Soto is doing as a teenager. He may very well be the greatest teenage batter in baseball history.

Secondly, Soto has been incredibly consistent. He’s basically been an All-Star level hitter since the day he was called up in May, whereas Acuna’s numbers, while very legitimate, are buoyed by his recent hot streak. He’s hit 8 home runs in 8 games, and of every hitter with at least 100 plate appearances since the All-Star Game, he has the highest wRC+ in that span. He’s had plenty of valleys to his peaks, though, and Soto has been a model of consistency. Of all hitters with at 200 at-bats this entire season, Soto ranks 7th over the entire season, That’s astounding.

Another point in Soto’s favor is just how historic his numbers are. Voters love a narrative, and as mentioned above, Soto is having literally the best offensive season a teenager has ever had. The highest wRC+ by a 19-year old in baseball history in Mel Ott with a 140 exactly 90 seasons ago. Soto is beating that by 13 so far.

The true separator, though, is Soto’s on-base percentage. His .420 mark is a comfortable 4th of all players with at least 300 plate appearances, behind elite batting eyes Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Joey Votto. And, once again, we’re talking about something historic.

Soto’s .420 on-base percentage, if it holds, will be the only OBP over .400 for a teenager with 200 plate appearances in Major League history. In fact, outside of Ott’s .397 in 1928, no other teenager has ever reached base at a .360 clip, let alone Soto’s astronomical .420.

Ultimately, I believe more in Acuna’s future, but I think Soto’s been the better player this season. Acuna is more well-rounded, but Soto’s elite batting eye has made him a top 10 hitter in baseball already. If Soto had been up on Opening Day and played at this level, he’d be on pace for a 5.5 WAR, which would top even Bryce Harper’s 2012 season.

As mentioned, voters love a narrative though, and if Acuna comes back from his injury and stays as hot as he’s been all August, it’ll be tough to ignore his performance during the Braves’ stretch run. This award is not over, but for now, Soto should be considered the favorite.

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Washington Nationals announce the addition of a bullpen cart

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Washington Nationals announce the addition of a bullpen cart

Sean Doolittle has gotten his wish - the Washington Nationals will now have a bullpen cart for the remainder of the 2018 season. 

In a release on Thursday, the Nationals announced that they will unveil a the WGL Energy Bullpen Cart on their upcoming Friday night game against the Miami Marlins. The cart will be at all remaining home games at Nationals Park.

Both the Nationals’ pitchers and opponents will be able to utilize the cart to enter a game as a reliever. The cart will transport the relief pitcher from the bullpen to their dugout instead of the traditional long trout out to the mound. 

Players are not required to use the vehicle if they do not want to. 

Earlier this season, Doolittle was the first National ever to use the bullpen cart at Chase Field, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Afterward, he noted that although he had less time, he was not out of breath and “loved it.”

In addition to the Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers, the Nationals are the third active team to have a bullpen cart. Per the release, this is the first season that the bullpen cart has been used in MLB since 1995.

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